New Delhi: “For India, community-based studies prior to COVID, were suggesting that there was high knowledge and awareness around the importance of hand hygiene and how to do it, but there were not enough facilities. Now well, there are no services currently, but there is really heightened awareness with this pandemic, and that is a momentum we need to leverage for handwashing”, said Dr Roderico Ofrin, World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative, India at the NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India’s Swasth Bharat, Sampann Bharat telethon.
One of the key focus areas of Season 8 of the Banega Swasth India campaign is hygiene and germs. The idea is to ensure good health and hygiene, to create a healthier and prosperous nation. In the last one and a half years, the COVID-19 pandemic has given us one major lesson that is ensuring hygiene and cleanliness for public health. Talking more about the same, Dr Ofrin said,
Handwashing with soap and water is an established, cost-effective public health intervention. Universal access to handwashing facilities with soap and water is even a sustainable development goal. The WHO and UNICEF have been working on this, providing guidance, providing tools, helping out, set up handwashing facilities in as many places as they can be, whether they’re schools, universities, hospitals, clinics, so that this goal is achieved. The idea that an individual can do something (wash hands with soap and water) to prevent disease is a key message.
Talking more about what an individual can do to protect one from germs and infections, and to promote hygienic habits in people around, Dr Ofrin called to be discerning of the information and working with the community. He said,
It’s not enough that your, probably your home, and then your surroundings are clean, but also encouraging your neighbours and work as a community together that it’s clean everywhere. There are initiatives around this by the government like the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and Jal Jeevan mission, and that also requires community engagement and support.
Lessons From The COVID-19 Pandemic
When asked, what are the keys lessons for authorities, to better manage disease and health? Dr Ofrin said, “The first principle is to act together.” But what does it mean to act together? Dr Ofrin believes that solutions for all health issues or diseases do not necessarily lie within the health sector. It can be in other sectors, for example, there may be a clinic, but if it’s difficult to access, maybe it is the transport and road sector that can help support that. He added,
A few specifics would be, we must strive to get to universal health coverage, meaning that for a person, the access to quality healthcare is affordable and available, as near as it can be. And in India, the Ayushman Bharat has paved the way for this. It’s a huge investment to reach so many people. Two, we need to have a robust surveillance system. Meaning that any unusual disease, any unusual outbreak of regular disease, let’s say Dengue is increasing in a district. You pick it up right away so that interventions come right away. That can only be done through a very sensitive and robust surveillance system.
Thirdly, Dr Ofrin suggested a strong health system anchored in primary health care meaning it is available as a very basic service. For example, India has health and wellness centres. At the same time, training and supporting healthcare workers is importatnt, said Dr Ofrin.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, that is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.